Marie Claire's Editor-in-Chief Trish Halpin reviews country house hotel Stoke Park
Deserve a treat? Need some indulgence? A stay at this grand country house hotel, is about as good as it gets. The magnificent white mansion house, designed by George III’s architect James Wyatt is set in beautiful Capability Brown parkland and has been updated two centuries on with the addition of the Pavilion Spa and a swanky golf course. Far enough from London to be a nearby escape for city dwellers, Stoke Park is still close enough (35 minutes) to whizz in to town if the fancy takes you.
A girly weekend with your best pal or a romantic getaway with your man (but not if he’s inclined to a spot of golf and you’re not – no golfer will be able to resist a round on the championship course). Remember the mini break in Bridget Jones Diary, when the naughty Daniel Cleaver (aka Hugh Grant) falls in the lake? That was filmed here. And another Daniel (Mr Craig) filmed episodes of Layer Cake here too. In fact, you’ll find DVDs of these and other movies shot at Stoke Park (Wimbledon, Rock n Rolla) in your bedroom, which you’ll want to spend plenty of time in – whether you’re staying in one of the 21 rooms or suites in the historic mansion (think velvet sofas, antiques and roll top baths), or the 28 Pavilion rooms, which mix classic furnishings with modern art for a more contemporary combination.
The grand sweeping staircase, light filled orangery, vast flower arrangements and terrace fountains scream elegance of a bygone era. But this isn’t a museum, as the faded tapestries and worn in carpets testify. And that’s a good thing as it gives you permission to make yourself at home and not feel like you need to stand on ceremony or be on best behaviour (heaven forbid). Our fellow guests were a mix of Chinese tourists, smart looking businessmen (that’ll be the golf) plenty of couples and some elegant ladies taking part in an afternoon bridge tournament. Stoke Park is also a members club (the car park is filled with Range Rovers) so the spa and gym can get busy (be sure to book ahead), but hotel guests also get to try the 50 classes a week in the gym from HIIT to hot yoga.
Good job executive chef (and star the BBC’s Great British Menu) Chris Wheeler is on hand to rustle up dishes such as monkfish with clams and samphire or beef with truffle potatoes and sherry glazed onions in the fine dining room Humphrey’s. A less formal affair is the San Marco Italian restaurant, and a special mention must go to the delicious apricot bircher museli I woffled down in the sunlit orangery at breakfast.
While you’re there:
Make plenty of time for the spa. A soak in the outdoor hot tub on a crisp autumn day watching birds flit around the spa garden was the perfect warm up (and wind down) for an hour-long aromatherapy massage. And for the morning after the night before, a pre-breakfast swim followed by ten minutes in the Italian marble steam room (best steam I’ve ever had) was the most energising way to start the day. When you’re ready for action, ask for a map of the Heritage Walk, which takes you around the grounds, through the Memorial Gardens and St Giles’ Churchyard where lies the tomb of the poet Thomas Gray who wrote Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard. If you want to venture further afield, Windsor Castle is a short hop and thrill seekers can get their adrenalin fix at nearby Thorpe Park.
Book a stay at Stoke Park with Small Luxury Hotels of the World from £220 per night in a standard room (two sharing) on a room only basis. Book online or call 0800 0482 314.